Calais Planning Board OKs LNG site plan

Posted July 13, 2010, at 10:48 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — A $1 billion liquefied natural gas terminal proposed for the city scaled a major hurdle Monday night but then immediately hit a major roadblock.

After a three-hour public hearing before the Calais Planning Board on Monday, Calais LNG’s proposed site plan for the facility was given unanimous approval.

But within hours, the company’s attorney sent a letter to the Maine Bureau of Environmental Protection seeking postponement of a series of public hearings scheduled to begin next Monday.

“We do not make this request lightly,” Calais LNG attorney David B. Van Slyke said Tuesday afternoon.

Van Slyke said that Calais LNG is unable to provide relevant information required in its permit request to BEP in time for next week’s hearings and “that may be perceived as a procedural flaw in this process.”

The information BEP is requesting is complex, Van Slyke said, and includes several reports that have not been completed.

These include a second-level soil report on the gas pipeline route; data sheets and analysis on areas similar to vernal pools; and policies for dealing with the Maine Department of Marine Patrol and various fisheries, he said.

Rather than chance continuing with the hearings and triggering the possibility of motions for additional hearings or appeals to Superior Court, Van Slyke asked that the hearings be postponed until after Sept. 1.

He said the BEP is giving intervenors and other parties time to respond to the request for postponement and will make a decision today.

The Canadian government and other critics of the project have opposed the passage of LNG tankers through the waters of Passamaquoddy Bay due to the navigational, environmental and public safety risks associated with the transit of these tankers.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Calais LNG project marketing manager Ian Emery expressed his pleasure with the Planning Board’s decision the night before.

“The people of Calais have sent a message to Maine and the rest of the United States and around the world that the city of Calais is open for LNG business,” Emery said. “We look forward to putting as many people as possible from Washington County to work.”

The Calais LNG project, estimated to cost between $800 million and $1 billion, is proposed for the Red Beach section of Calais, south of the city on a 330-acre site that features 2,800 feet of shoreline along the deep-water banks of the St. Croix River and Passamaquoddy Bay.

“This is unprecedented,” Emery said of the scope of the proposed project.

The series of public hearings by the BEP on the project were set to begin Monday, July 19, and continue throughout the week. A number of parties have already submitted written testimony, including the towns of Baileyville and Cutler. Both communities have submitted letters in support of the Calais LNG terminal.

Van Slyke said he believed all submitted material would become part of the BEP permanent record.

Emery also said Tuesday that he has made initial contact with the city of Eastport about locating berths there for Calais LNG’s four tugboats. “These will be 94-foot boats, each with a crew of eight,” he said.

Emery said he is hoping that the city of Eastport will look at the tugboat berths as an economic opportunity and help with their construction costs.

“We are hoping to form a strategic relationship [with Eastport],” Emery said.

The project is also in the midst of the permitting process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In late January 2010, Calais LNG filed its permits with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Once all the required permits for the Calais terminal have been obtained, Emery said the company can move forward with construction, which he believes will create about 1,000 jobs. He said it will take 38 to 45 months to construct the terminal. Heavy equipment operators, electricians, pipe fitters, cement experts, welders and other construction workers will be needed.

Once the permits are in place, Emery said a request for proposals will be released, and he expects a dozen or so major construction companies will vie for the general contractor’s slot. The general contractor then will subcontract out to contract workers and other companies.

For information on the project, visit www.calaislng.com.

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